Despite it being nearly 40 degrees, a man toils away in a garden. He cannot hear or speak, but he is happy, and his future is bright.
Muhammad Salem, 26 is from Mosul, Iraq. To many, the name of this city is familiar because of the dark days of ISIS. Today however, the city is returning to its former glory. Before ISIS and the war in Iraq, Mosul was the intellectual and cultural capital of Iraq. This vibrant city is once again full of hope and GOAL is working to make the future brighter for people like Muhammad by helping them find work. He is one of nearly four thousand people helped this way by GOAL and WFP in Iraq.
Muhammed is the eldest of six siblings, two brothers and four sisters. From the very beginning, he faced huge challenges in his life. When he was just four months old, he caught a severe fever resulting in the permeant loss of his hearing.
As a result of deafness, Muhammad never learnt to speak. Due to his muteness, he does this interview via sign language with his father acting as interpreter. His father, Muhanned (50), does the best he can to help his son.
“My father helps with communication when I cannot talk to people through sign language. He has helped me all my life and I am grateful”
If this was not difficult enough, Muhammed faced obstacles all his life, including in education. Although he attended a private school in Mosul for the deaf and mute, this education was only available till the age of 13, after which he left school.
With little education, deaf and mute, the future did not seem promising for Muhammed. Making matters worse, social attitudes in Iraq towards the people like him are often negative. Discrimination and impatience towards him are common experiences.
In addition, the war against ISIS devastated Mosul. The city is only beginning to recover both economically and socially. Muhammed should have been having the time of his life, but instead his early 20’s were spent fearful of Islamic State.
Despite all this, Muhammed had one thing to keep him going, his family. With the help of his family, he married and recently had a baby boy, which he describes as “the biggest joy of his life.” His wife, who is two years younger than him even learnt sign language in order to communicate with him.
His father, saw an opportunity to help his son. He heard that GOAL was providing work to vulnerable people in Mosul with help from the World Food Program.
His father contacted GOAL and was ecstatic when he heard his son would soon be employed saying “I am so grateful to the efforts made by GOAL for providing this opportunity for my son.”
Muhammed now works through GOAL as a gardener in Mosul. He maintains communal gardens, removing plants, cleaning litter and watering flowers among other tasks. He does this under the baking Iraqi sun.
Much of Mosul was left in ruins after years of conflict. The local Government are seeking to clean up the city. Among the plants and shrubs, Muhammed often finds remnants of conflict like debris.
His colleagues help Muhammed with his work, explaining instructions to him the best they can despite some not knowing sign language. Although Muhammed struggles to communicate, he shows anyone he can photos of his family, especially his son, “I don’t need words to describe the love I have for my son”.
With GOAL and the WFP, Muhammed now makes $20 a day, which goes a long way to helping his family. The focus of projects like these is to build resilience and help people like Muhammed become more self-sufficient.
The future now seems bright for Muhammed. When he is not busy with his son, he now has work experience to pursue a career as a gardener. This is only one of many options for him, but for now with the help of GOAL and WFP he can independently provide for his family.
GOAL and WFP partnership in Iraq
Through its partnership with WFP, GOAL is supporting 635 Households to meet their basic needs through the creation of the micro and small enterprises. In addition, through its WFP supported cash for work program, GOAL is supporting over 3000 vulnerable households like Muhammed’s, who have found it difficult to find employment or who have lost their livelihoods, due to COVID-19 crisis.